Originally posted January 15, 2015. Updated August 11, 2017.
More than two and a half years ago, I posted an article, How to Become a Makeup Artist. That article has been saved on Pinterest by more than 2,400 different people. Crazy, right? (see the image below and the pin icon that reads 2.4k) I thought since that many people are reading what I had to say, it would be a good idea to update this post.
As a professional makeup artist, I constantly receive questions about how I got started. My short answer is there is no set path to follow if you want to become a freelance makeup artist – you must pave your own way. You also must have three things: aim, purpose, and desire. You cannot want to become a makeup artist because you see me (or another person) doing it and making it seem fun and glamorous. Of course, it is fun, however, I only post my highlight reel on social media. You’ll probably never see a post from me that says, “so tired of waking up at 4:00 am to get ready and drive to my wedding location,” or “just worked with the world’s nastiest bridezilla.” Right? So just remember, don’t compare your life to someone else’s highlight reel.
With that being said, I think if you follow some of these essential steps, you will be heading in the right direction. I am not an expert by any means, so before you jump into anything, be sure to do lots of research!
HOW DID I GET STARTED?
It all started at an early age when I was just a little girl. I always had a love and skill for drawing and painting, probably because both of my parents are extremely artistic. As I grew a bit older, I also acquired a love for makeup. I adored my mother who has always been beautiful, and she really knows how to apply makeup. She went to cosmetology school when she was a teenager, so most of what I learned when I was young was from her.
Another reason I was so attracted to the glamorous side of makeup was that I grew up a dancer on a competition team. I spent countless hours of my life backstage before competitions and performances applying lip liner and false lashes.
My mom started letting me wear makeup in junior high school, which at the time consisted of white eye shadow, black eyeliner on top and bottom, mascara, and shimmery lip gloss. Not a good look. Those are definitely not the products my mom had recommended I use, but she let me apply them as I wished (that was the look all the girls were doing at that time).
Once I got to high school, I finally (sort of) figured out what actually looked good. I stopped wearing eyeliner on the bottom because I realized that made my eyes look smaller, and I began wearing bronzer and blush. I should mention that I ditched the white eye shadow trend, thank goodness.
In class, I would daydream about giving whoever was sitting across from me a makeover (so weird, but so true). I would assess what I would do to accentuate their best features; it was like a game for me. I loved when my girlfriends would ask me to do their makeup before semi formals and proms. I would dig into my makeup bag and let the fun and magic begin.
Once I got to college, I was always asked to do friends’ makeup before we went out for the night. I would be the last one to get ready and head out the door due to giving everyone else a smoky eye. I recall one time when I was on the phone with my mom during my senior year saying, “I don’t even know why I went to college, I wish I could just be a makeup artist.” Little did I know then, I could still graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree and still fulfill my dream of becoming a makeup artist.
Upon graduating, I began my career in the marketing field. I love marketing, and I was excited to start my first “big girl job,” but I knew that I also wanted to do something that involved makeup. So one day after work, I made up my mind in my own head, that I would become a freelance makeup artist specialized in weddings. I wasn’t sure where to begin – I just figured it out along the way because I had aim, purpose, and desire. My aim was to become a reputable makeup artist in my local area. My purpose was to make clients look and feel their best. And my desire was to be happy doing what I love.
After you ask yourself a few questions and decide you’re ready to start heading in the right direction, here is what I would do…
First things first, you need to be passionate about whatever it is you set out to do. That could be becoming a makeup artist, an accountant, a lawyer, a song writer, a baker – whatever. Don’t just do something because you heard it makes a lot of money or because you have summers off. Do it because you think you will actually enjoy it.
Once you decide on your niche it’s time to do some heavy research. Figure out what services you would like to offer, research what other makeup artists in your area are offering, and how they are pricing their services, etc. Long before I put together my first website, documents, and contracts, I did a lot of research on makeup artists in general – not to copy, but to do research. Speaking of copying – just don’t. You will make people angry and you definitely do not want to do that in the beauty industry. You will also need to do research on which products to purchase for your kit (more on that in a bit).
Okay, so you want to become a makeup artist – great! Now you need to think about what your niche is going to be. You should decide this early on in your business process because it will save you time and money (and headaches) in the future. I decided I wanted my niche to be wedding makeup – specifically natural looking but still glamorous wedding makeup.
BUILD (YOUR BRAND)
When I first started out, my prices were very low – because I was new – and I would accept any work that came my way, even if it was makeup for just one person on a wedding day. Once I built my brand and my reputation, I was able to increase my prices. I am proud of the brand that I have built, more than five years later. You should always aim to be proud of yourself for the present and the future. I can rattle off several makeup artists in my area who have canceled on brides, acted immaturely, charged high prices for low quality – the list goes on and on. But how are they possibly proud of that? Always make yourself and your clients proud. If you do great work all around (not only your artistry skills but being a professional in general), word will spread like wildfire. Oh, and you bet it will also spread like wildfire if your work/professionalism isn’t great. So what’s my overall point? Build a good reputation (aka your brand) for yourself and your business from the very beginning.
BUILD (YOUR KIT)
Building my kit was one of the hardest parts when I was first starting out because it costs a lot of money (blog post on that coming soon – and I guarantee it will make your jaw drop). I spent hours upon hours researching which products would be best for my kit, but even then, you really learn what you like by trial and error. The kit that I built when I first started out is nothing like what my kit is today. Also keep in mind that once you purchase all of the products initially, you constantly have to replenish due to running out of product, adding new products, and products that have expired.
I recommend you start by building your kit piece by piece rather than all at once. For example, dedicate a certain amount of money to purchasing a particular product, such as concealers, during one month. Then the next month, dedicate a certain amount to purchasing blushes. And so on until you have a substantial kit. Please keep in mind that your kit will probably never be complete! Makeup is constantly being innovated and marketed so that we keep trying and buying new products.
Here is a summary of what I would suggest you have in your starter kit:
- Makeup remover wipes
- Makeup remover (liquid or cream)
- Cotton balls
- Cotton pads
- Prep and setting sprays
- Eye shadow primer
- Eye shadow palettes
- Eyeliners (liquid, pencil, and gel)
- Mascara (regular and waterproof)
- False lashes (a few different styles)
- Lash adhesive
- Small scissors
- Face primers
- Foundation (airbrush, regular, or both)
- Color correctors (peach, orange, purple, green)
- Beauty blenders (optional)
- Brush cleaner
- Disposable mascara wands
- Disposable lip wands
- Hand sanitizer
- Hand towel
- Paper towels
- Business cards
- Makeup light
- Makeup chair
VOICE & IMAGE
Your voice and image are similar to your brand. After you do your research and decide on your niche, you want to be consistent with how people think about you and your business. When people think of me, from what I’m told by the emails I receive from prospects, they think of natural looking makeup that is still beautiful and glamorous. The reason they think that is because, well 1) that is the look that I normally do on clients and 2) when they look at my website, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and other pages, that is what they see. So whatever your style is, stick with it and make it consistent. There are absolutely no rules in makeup – that’s the beauty and magic of it! But if you create an aesthetically pleasing brand image, that will take you a long way.
Same goes for your “voice.” How do you want to be heard? Do you want to be known as the go-to makeup artist for not only your niche but also as a resource for knowing about all the latest beauty products? I do! So I try to demonstrate that in my voice. I am never sales-y, because I am not selling anything, so my voice is authentic and I think people trust my opinion.
PRACTICE, PATIENCE & PERSEVERANCE
My final piece of advice is to practice, practice, practice…have lots of patience…and keep persevering. You cannot expect to become anything overnight. All good things take time. Your work, in the beginning, will make you cringe when you look back at it ten years later. That’s why you keep practicing! It is said that it takes 10,000 hours of practice until you become an expert in a field. So yeah, a long time. Keep hustling and those hours will accumulate as the years go by.
And one last note: don’t forget to have fun! With whatever you do in life, not just becoming a makeup artist. Remember to enjoy the ride.